Much was made of Jeff Fisher’s unequivocal support of Case Keenum even after the journeyman’s four-interception performance in London against the New York Giants.
In the past, laying an egg across the pond has meant dire things for coaches and quarterbacks who don’t perform because the subsequent bye week allows organizations a lot of time to think just as the outside pressure continues to grow.
In Los Angeles, that actually existed long before the U.K. was in the equation, however, because Keenum, a player with a ceiling as high as your daughter’s latest Barbie Dream House, was holding off the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 draft, Jared Goff.
And that was further complicated by the early play of some other rookies, most notably the guy picked right behind Goff, Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz, as well as a fourth-round pick in Dallas, Dak Prescott. Even New England’s Jacoby Brissett and Cleveland’s Cody Kessler showed significant promise when being pressed into action due to injury.
Yet, Goff has continued to be held at bay by an option that excites virtually no one without the surname Keenum.
To be fair to Fisher, however, Goff looked further behind the curve that anyone expected back in the preseason and the adjustment behind the move from Cal’s “Bear Raid” offense to the NFL sure looked like making the leap from arithmetic to advanced calculus.
Forget about Keenum, Goff wasn’t nearly as good as third-stringer Sean Mannion back in the summer so it’s understandable why Fisher didn’t throw the rookie into the deep end immediately, hoping he could swim.
On one hand, the coach was trying to protect Goff because watching a young kid who isn’t close to being ready flail miserably could cause irreparable damage to his psyche. On the other, Fisher is trying to win football games and his feeling is that Keenum is still the QB who gives the Rams the best chance to do that.
The problem is that none of these decisions are made in a vacuum and the minute the Rams traded up in the draft with Tennessee for the opportunity to take Goff, the die was cast.
At some point, Los Angeles has to take the shrink wrap off the kid and let him sink or swim, even though the head coach thinks he already knows what’s going to happen.
Fisher plans to get Goff some extra reps during the Week 8 bye for the Rams even though Keenum and his receivers could have used them in the shadow of some miscommunication issues in London.
And that means the Rams have reached the tipping point where expectations overtake the best opportunity to win on any particular game day.
Goff is perceived to be the future of this organization with Keenum as the placeholder and that narrative is never changing until the former gets on the field and forces observers to test the thesis.
At that point if Goff flames out dramatically, the Rams move into a new phase centered on plausible deniability as to why in the world they thought a prospect from a spread offense in college with no traditional quarterbacking skills when it comes to autonomy at the line of scrimmage was deserving of being the No. 1 overall pick.
Two different NFL sources told TodaysPigskin.com that the Rams coaching staff remains far more comfortable with Mannion as the next option and if this was a vacuum, Mannion would be the backup on game days, and the one preparing to take over the Rams offense after the next egregious Keenum throw.
The politics of that look are untenable, however, and we are speeding toward the path of no return.
Los Angeles has done everything it can to get Goff ready to play an NFL game and the results from the practice field do not foreshadow success.
The Rams, though, are compelled to play the rookie because of his draft status so when the rubber finally does meet the road, the hope is that the skill set takes over and that Goff turns out to be a poor practice player who is able to turn it on come game day.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.